Free Range Kid
As a very young child, I was allowed to run free. I lived in a place called Bon Secour, a very small town in Alabama. It was located some distance from anything that could reasonably be called a “city.” My cousin Lea , a few year younger than me, and I knew all the roads, side roads and trails by the time I was ten. We were given the freedom to run and explore. We knew in which yards grew scuppernong grapes, plums, and free fruit for the picking. We knew the dogs of our little community by name and which were friendly and which were to be
avoided. We knew the names of the store owners, the mailman and the guy at the gas station. We knew were to catch the best and biggest fish and which fields were baited in the fall for dove and quail hunting. I was given a BB gun at age eleven and I set out into the world to shoot pretty much that was small and moved. I could mount it across the handle bars of my Schwinn Stingray and nobody would give me second look as I peddled several miles to the local fisheries to hunt rodents. At the fisheries, my friend Chris and I could shoot the sea-roaches off the piers from twenty feet. We made beer can top chains by collecting pop-tops down at the gas station. I’d occasionally go the next town which was Foley to see my grandmother. This was ten miles away. We were allowed to go into the drug store alone and purchase a twenty five cent malt or go into “The Galley”, the local tavern on the river and play pinball for a dime. The Bon Secour river was fed by natural springs. When the weather was particularly hot, we could pedal our bikes up to the head of the river, where and the water was really cold. This was a treasured place called “The Ice Box”. This was particularly refreshing after a long bike ride.
These were my summer days. It was pretty much the same for all of the boys in our community. Nobody scheduled our days, nobody organized our fun and nobody watched over our shoulders. We were simply free to be. I often wonder if this childhood isn’t the planted seed that grew into my libertarian world view today. Could it be that my desire for a society of free people enjoying their liberties to have roots in that 1970s era freedom I experienced as a child? Frankly, it is hard see how the freedom I experienced could not be what I long for in the grown up world.That really worries me. Now that I am much older and reflect with three boys of my own, I worry even more. I worry about the adults that will arise from childhoods being experienced today. Everywhere I look, children are being scheduled and hovered over. Intense sports training begins at age four, helicopter mothers never let children out of their sight. Kids are fenced in, programmed and continuously managed by adults. What kind of future will we have? What kind of world will these heavily managed children grow up to build? Will they long for the wide open spaces and pure freedom that I experienced? Or will they build a structured, managed, constricted severely controlling society that is based on the only world they know? I’m getting older every day and with that, it is more than ever clear, that these kids will eventually be politicians, judges and our leaders. There is still nothing I can do, but it still worries me.